Wednesday, October 21, 2015

NY Governor Announces $6.4 Million for Sexual Assault Prevention and Assistance Providers

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has signed multiple pieces of legislation designed to protect and further women’s equality in New York State. The new laws will help achieve pay equity, strengthen human trafficking laws and protections for domestic violence victims and end pregnancy discrimination in all workplaces.

The Governor also announced that New York State has allocated a total of $6.4 million for Sexual Assault Prevention and Assistance providers across the State. This includes $4.5 million enacted as part of the Enough is Enough legislative package to support implementation of this new campus sexual assault legislation by providing prevention, as well as $1 million to be administered by the Department of Health and $900,000 to be administered by the Office of Victim Services.

“This State has a legacy of leading the way in advancing equal rights – and today, we are making New York a model of equality for women,” said Governor Cuomo.

Audio of Governor’s remarks available here; Video available here

PHOTOS of the event are available on the Governor’s Flickr page here.

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul said: “Today is a historic day for New York State as we finally fulfill our promise to millions of women seeking to shatter that invisible glass ceiling. As a woman, I am particularly proud that our Governor has made improving the status of women in our State one of his highest priorities. That's what the Women’s Equality Act was all about: to ensure that women are no longer treated differently from their male counterparts. Whether it’s protecting women from sexual assault, pregnancy discrimination or securing equal pay for equal work, Governor Cuomo deserves enormous credit for achieving his ambitious agenda and never looking back.”

As part of Governor Cuomo’s efforts to protect women’s rights, he signed a number of bills designed end discrimination and inequality based on gender. The signed bills can be found here. These new laws will help to:
· Achieve Pay Equity: This bill (S. 1 / A. 6075) would strengthen New York State law to truly prohibit employers from paying women less than men for performing the same work. The bill eliminates a loophole in the current law that allows employers to prohibit employees from discussing their salaries under threat of termination or suspension. Specifically, the bill would allow employees to discuss their wages with each other. Further, the bill increases the amount of damages available to an employee if an employer willfully violates the law.
· Protect victims of sexual harassment: This bill (S. 2 / A. 5360) protects all employees from sexual harassment in the workplace regardless of the size of the employer. Currently, the definition of “employer” excludes employers with fewer than four employees, thus prohibiting individuals from filing harassment complaints with the Division of Human Rights against those employers. This new law expands the definition of “employer” to cover all employers within New York in sexual harassment cases so that an employee of any business can file a workplace sexual harassment complaint.
· Remove Barriers to Remedying Discrimination: This bill (S. 3 / A.7189) allows successful plaintiffs to recover attorneys’ fees in employment or credit discrimination cases based on sex. This law enables victims, most of whom are women, to have the opportunity to vindicate their rights and be made whole in cases where they prevail. Under existing New York State law, plaintiffs cannot recover attorney fees at trial for employment discrimination cases, making it costly to bring a case.
· End Family Status Discrimination: This bill (S. 4 / A. 7317) prohibits employment discrimination based on familial status. Currently, New York State law only prohibits discrimination based on familial status in the areas of housing and credit, however, employees often suffer from stereotypes relative to their status as parents or guardians of children under the age of eighteen. Women have been most affected by stereotyped views of parents in the work place and are less likely to be recommended for hire or promoted. This new law prohibits employment agencies, licensing agencies, or labor organizations from discriminating against workers based on their familial status.
· Protect Victims of Domestic Violence from Housing Discrimination: This bill (S. 5 / A. 6354-B) prohibits landlords from discriminating against victims of domestic violence. Currently, under New York State law an individual could be denied housing on the basis of his or her status as a victim of domestic violence. This new bill protects victims of domestic violence from discrimination when they attempt to rent or lease housing, and provide them with an affirmative defense in eviction proceedings and a private right of action. Additionally, this bill would create a Task Force to study the impact that source of income has on access to housing.
· Protect Victims of Domestic Violence by Strengthening Order-of-Protection Laws: This bill (S. 6 / A. 6262) creates a pilot program to allow domestic violence victims to seek temporary orders of protection through electronic means rather than having to appear in person. Currently domestic violence victims face significant obstacles in securing protection from their abusers. For example, some victims require immediate temporary orders of protection, but have no means to travel to the appropriate family court. To remove these obstacles and ensure these victims are able to secure much-needed orders of protection, this bill would allow the Office of Court Administration to develop a pilot program to allow victims to petition for temporary orders of protection remotely. In addition, this bill ensures that orders of protection are translated, when needed, and makes clear that a victim of domestic violence who has an order of protection against her abuser cannot be accused of violating her own order of protection.
· Strengthen Human Trafficking Laws: This bill (S. 7 / A. 506) strengthens existing law in New York State to combat human trafficking. It eliminates the requirement that coercion be proven in a sex trafficking prosecution when the victims are minors, increases penalties for the crime, and creates an affirmative defense in prostitution prosecutions if the defendant was a trafficking victim. In addition, the new law makes it easier for victims of human trafficking to receive support services, and requires training for law enforcement to adequately address human trafficking crimes.
· Protect Women from Pregnancy Discrimination: This bill (S. 8 / A. 4272) requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees. Some pregnancies can result in medical conditions requiring certain accommodations within the workplace and current protections for pregnant women are confusing and have been misinterpreted. This new law clarifies that employers must perform a reasonable accommodation analysis for pregnant employees.

Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, Chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus, said: “Today, New York is taking many bold steps in the fight against discrimination and continuing to lead the way in ensuring equality for all. With these new laws, New York is guaranteeing unprecedented protections for women and their families on a range of issues. I want to thank Governor Cuomo and my colleagues in legislature for their leadership on these issues and taking a powerful stance against discrimination and sexual harassment.”

Senator Catherine Young said: “The Women’s Equality Agenda that was signed today will establish sweeping protections for New York’s women, and marks a historic step forward in the fight for equality. New York State has always been the ‘State of Opportunity,’ and with these new laws will ensure that opportunities are protected for women just as much as they are for men. We are also taking fundamental steps forward to protect women from a number of terrible crimes, including sexual harassment and human trafficking. Today is proof that we can come together – Republicans and Democrats – to get the job done. I look forward to continuing that level of partnership, with Governor Cuomo and the members of the Senate and Assembly, to deliver for the women of New York. ”

Senator Betty Little said: “I am very pleased to see the signing of these bills which will help break down barriers and ensure a brighter future for women all across New York State. In a couple of years, we will be celebrating the centennial anniversary of women’s suffrage in New York State. It will be a time to remember and honor the incredible, dedicated women who would not take ‘no’ for an answer and prevailed in 1917. Their legacy is honored with the continued progress seen in today's bill signing. I thank Governor Cuomo and all of my colleagues for making it possible.”

Senator Diane Savino said: “Today New York takes a big step toward recognizing women’s rights in the workforce. These measures strengthen protections and prevent discrimination in pay for New York women. Pay equity is long overdue and this common sense bill ensures that the hardworking women of New York have the chance to earn the same wages as their male counterparts. I thank Governor Cuomo for recognizing the importance of this issue and ensuring that the women of New York are given full protection under the law.”

Senator Andrew Lanza said: “Human trafficking is a modern version of the slave trade and a devastating human rights violation that is occurring in our own backyards. Here in New York, thousands of innocent people are bought and sold like property each year. I'm proud to have authored and passed the long-awaited Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act (TVPJA) to enhance protections for trafficking victims and hold those who exploit them accountable. I thank Governor Cuomo, Assemblywoman Paulin and the many advocates who helped make this possible.”

Senator Joe Robach, said: “When it comes to combating domestic violence, it is critically important that victims are able to find housing for themselves and their families to escape the eminent danger they have endured. This law will end discrimination in the housing marketplace and give domestic violence victims the protections they need from their abuser. I would like to thank the Governor for signing this bill into law, and what better time to do it than during Domestic Violence Awareness Month.”

Senator Kemp Hannon said: “This has been a historic year for the State in our ongoing campaign to protect, strengthen and further advance rights of women, and I’m pleased to have worked with the Governor and Assembly to finally enact these much needed protections. I’m proud to have sponsored the measure requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with pregnancy-related medical conditions. The Senate has passed this measure for several years and I am pleased we have been able to come together in a bi-partisan manner to enact this common sense law to ensure women are guaranteed adequate protections from discrimination in New York.”

Senator David J. Valesky said: “These are extremely important pieces of legislation that are needed to better protect women in the workplace and from human trafficking. Many women’s lives and financial livelihoods depend on the passage of these bills, and I thank Governor Cuomo for signing them into law today.”

Assemblywoman Amy Paulin said: “We now have the legal power to stop this heinous crime and put evil predators out of business. We can finally bring young victims of human trafficking out of the shadows and give them back a life filled with dignity and promise. I want to thank the Governor for signing this bill. This new law is another milestone for the great state of New York. The Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act is perhaps the most important bill of my career.”

Assembly member Linda B. Rosenthal said: "Today is an historic day for the women of New York State. Today, the Governor is signing eight critically important pieces of legislation that will move all women one step closer to true gender equality. Having worked closely with the Administration to ensure that funding for rape crisis centers statewide matches the scope of the challenges we face, I am thrilled that the Governor prioritized funding for prevention, education and crisis counseling. Governor Cuomo's commitment to the survivors of rape and sexual assault is unquestionable, and I look forward to working closely with him and advocates in the upcoming session to continue New York's leadership on this issue."

Assemblywoman Michele Titus said: “I am proud to have played a role in passing this portion of the Women’s Equality Agenda. Today our state is taking a fundamental step forward in the fight for equal rights – this is a day that will improve the lives of millions. Governor Cuomo has been a steadfast supporter and advocate for women’s rights so far, and I look forward to working closely with him in the days, weeks and months to come as we continue to push the envelope on behalf of women everywhere.”

Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples Stokes said: “Victims of domestic violence should not be subject to discrimination by landlords. Currently an individual could be denied housing due to their status as a victim of domestic violence. This legislation provides much-needed support in securing housing and defense in eviction proceedings. Haven House is one local facility that provides emergency housing for victims of domestic violence, which highlights the need for additional pathways to housing as opposed to roadblocks. I applaud Governor Cuomo for his commitment in the Enough is Enough Initiative and providing resources to aid these key programs.”

Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell said: “In New York we know families are the foundation of our communities. If someone is discriminated against because they have children, it hurts us all. With my bill being signed into law by Governor Cuomo to prevent workers from being discriminated against due to their family status, we’ve taken a meaningful step towards ensuring our friends and family are judged by their qualifications alone.”

Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther said: “Healthy moms and healthy babies are critical to a healthy New York. We’ve heard too many stories of women forced out of their jobs because their employer was unwilling to provide reasonable accommodations during their pregnancy. This new law is a big step forward in fighting pregnancy discrimination, but it also addresses the economic impact of needlessly lost employment on those families and the state. Governor Cuomo should be lauded for his support of New York’s women.”

Assemblywoman Sandy Galef said: “I am so pleased that the Governor has signed this bill. This legislation affords employees in all companies, no matter how small, the right to file a sexual harassment complaint. In 2011, women filed 75 percent of all sexual harassment complaints filed at the New York State Division of Human Rights, and 83 percent of all sexual harassment complaints filed at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This legislation grants new protections to those who have not had the same rights as those who are employed by larger businesses. This new law will have an immediate and substantial impact since small businesses with fewer than four employees comprise more than 60 percent of the State’s private employers. I was gratified by the strong and broad support from women’s rights organizations for this legislation.”

Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner said: “Those suffering from domestic violence will no longer have to travel to a courthouse in order to feel safe from their abuser. The signing of Assembly Bill A.6262 is a win for victims of domestic violence, their families and our community because it allows the power of technology to make them feel safer. I commend the work and support of my colleagues and Governor Cuomo for this essential package of bills to improve the safety for those experiencing domestic violence because it is an issue in our society. Now, with the signing of Assembly Bill A.6262, a new pilot program will be created to allow individuals to electronically file protection orders.”

Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz said: "I am pleased to have Governor Cuomo sign this important piece of legislation in to law today. This new law creates reasonable attorney's fees in housing, employment, and credit discrimination cases where sex is the basis of discrimination. It’s just not right that those who need it most are put in a position where they are either discouraged from seeking legal help, or end up in even greater financial trouble because they did. When people face discrimination they shouldn't be forced to stand down simply because they cannot afford an attorney. Awarding attorneys fees for the cases of discrimination that this bill addresses will provide people who need it the most, the representation needed to fight back. I am proud to be the sponsor of this legislation in the Assembly and I'm proud to stand with the Governor today as he signs it in to law."

Enough is Enough - $4.5 million

This funding was included in the Enough is Enough legislation passed in June in order to support Sexual Assault Prevention and Assistance providers, including prevention, education, and direct victim services, on college campuses across the State.

These grants will be administered by DOH, in consultation with OVS, and will be provided to 60 Sexual Assault Prevention and Assistance providers across the state. The funding allocated to each provider is based on the total number of college students enrolled in colleges/universities located in each county in New York State. Funding is also provided to providers in counties without colleges to support the anticipated increased demand for services as a result of the Enough is Enough initiatives.

DOH will issue a closed, non-competitive award to providers to perform the work associated with the legislation, in accordance with a required work plan and demonstrated partnerships between providers and local colleges and universities.

Department of Health - $1 million

This funding, included in the SFY 2015-16 budget, will be evenly distributed among the 55 DOH-approved Sexual Assault Prevention and Assistance providers. Each provider will receive approximately $18,180 to support program operations and community-focused awareness and education activities. Providers may use this funding to support a broad scope of activities, including prevention and training, and may use this funding to enhance their efforts under the Enough is Enough legislation.

Office of Victim Services - $900,000

This funding, included in the SFY 2015-16 budget, will be awarded to 34 providers that received funding from OVS in 2015 under the sexual assault priority category, in proportion to the size of existing program services. These funds may be used to support direct services for sexual assault victims, including but not limited to:
· Assisting victims with completing compensation applications;
· Accompanying victims to hospitals for Forensic Rape Exams (FRE);
· Accompanying victims to police stations when they make statements;
· Maintaining a crisis hotline so victims can call for support 24 hours per day;
· Individual counseling and therapy; and
· Both criminal justice and personal advocacy to assist victims in securing all their rights.

A complete list of the organizations and agencies that will receive allocations in each of these categories can be found here.

On behalf of the Women's Equality Coalition, Suzy Ballantyne, co-chair of WEA said: "We applaud Governor Cuomo for initiating these reforms that advance equality for New York women and to future generations. By working together with the 850 organizations that comprise the Women's Equality Coalition, our State Legislators, and the Governor we were able to pass legislation that will improve the lives of women and their families. We look forward to working with our allies to keep the momentum going. We will not stop until there is full equality in all aspects of women's lives”

Beverly Neufeld, President of PowHer New York said: “PowHer New York and the many advocates who have pushed for equal pay legislation for decades applaud Governor Cuomo for championing - and now signing into law - strong protections which will aid workers in attaining equal pay for equal work. Coupled with new laws addressing pregnancy discrimination, sexual harassment, domestic violence, trafficking, housing fairness and more, New York women have new tools needed to fight discrimination and combat obstacles to personal and economic security. This historic accomplishment also spotlights that what is good for women is good for New York.”

Donna Lieberman, New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director, said: "By closing loopholes in many existing protections for women and demonstrating a commitment to equality, the bills signed today set the stage for further, future reforms, such as protecting women's fundamental right to choose, ensuring access to reproductive health care and allowing new mothers paid family leave to care for their children without facing debt or bankruptcy.”

Dina Bakst, Co-founder of A Better Balance, said: "Thank you, Governor Cuomo, for having the courage and vision to tackle barriers that perpetuate discrimination and inequality in the workplace – in the process creating a better New York for my daughters, and every single mother, daughter, sister – and making a real difference for all New York families. We still have our work cut out for us to ensure full women's equality across the state, but this huge step, years in the making, will make an enormous difference for women and families in New York."

Lauren Tobias, President and CEO of Family Planning Advocates of New York State and Planned Parenthood Advocates of New York, said: “This is a moment to celebrate, but it is a first step, not a final destination. There were important aspects of the package left undone including New York State protections for a woman’s ability to access abortion services which is becoming increasingly fragile across the country. We look forward to working with our trusted colleagues in the Legislature to finish the job.”

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